A torn meniscus is, unfortunately, not an uncommon injury for runners. They can be very painful and, even worse, can keep you away from running and other forms of exercise for quite a while.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at exactly what the meniscus is, what happens when it gets torn, the effects of that, and how it’ll affect your running.
Of course, this’ll include whether you can run with a torn meniscus. So, if you want to know about all of that, then read on!
What Is A Meniscus?
Basically, a meniscus is a piece of cartilage that can be found in several human joints, most notably the knees.
Its name comes from the Greek word meniskos, meaning “crescent”. This is due to the crescent shape of the meniscus.
Its job is to provide a cushion between the shinbone and the thigh-bone, stopping friction between the bones and helping to disperse the body’s weight more evenly.
What Is A Meniscus Tear?
A torn meniscus is a fairly common knee injury. It often results from sudden movements that twist or jerk the knees, particularly if the person is putting their full weight on the meniscus when it happens.
The most obvious symptoms of a torn meniscus are pain, swelling, and stiffness, but you might also notice a reduced range of motion and difficulty extending your leg fully.
It can sometimes take some time for the symptoms to develop, possibly up to around 24 hours after the meniscus tears. There are two main kinds of meniscus tear: acute and chronic.
Acute meniscus tears: These are typically the result of a sports injury, wear and tear, or other trauma. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, which affect how serious the tear is.
These tears are sometimes treated conservatively. This means that the joint should be rested and medication should be taken to give the meniscus the chance to heal by itself.
In some cases, however, this will not be enough and surgery will be required.
Chronic meniscus tears are most common in middle-aged and elderly people, chronic meniscus tears generally do not have a single cause, and are often related to the aging of the joint itself.
Treatment for chronic meniscus tears varies on a case by case basis, sometimes involving physiotherapy, medication, and surgery, or a combination of these as required.
Walking And Running After Tearing A Meniscus
To put it simply, running on a torn meniscus is not a good idea. While you might feel tempted to walk (or run) the injury off, it’s not advisable to do so.
You might feel like your leg gives way under you when you try to walk on it, but even if you don’t then you’re still risking further damage.
Depending on how serious the tear is (and on how much pain you’re willing to tolerate), you might still be able to walk on the damaged knee, possibly with the help of painkillers.
If your tear’s only minor, you might be able to do this while the meniscus heals naturally.
If it’s more serious, however, the pain might stop you from walking around much. If it’s particularly serious, then it might need surgery to properly heal, and in that case, staying off it will probably be a good idea.
There is also some evidence to suggest that putting weight on the meniscus before it’s healed might land you in more trouble further down the line, making it more likely for your problems to recur.
On the other hand, if you do have surgery to repair your meniscus, it will be important for you to rebuild the strength in the leg afterward.
Some gentle walking will be a good way of doing this, at least when combined with a mixture of other physical exercises.
As for running, running with a torn meniscus, this runs the risk of seriously worsening the damage and is not at all recommended.
While some light exercise may or may not be okay, it’s better to leave running until after you’ve already made a full recovery.
If you don’t, then you risk worsening the damage and possibly even making it permanent.
When you’re recovering from a torn meniscus, it’s important to look out for signs that the recovery is having problems, especially if you underwent surgery.
Things to look out for include stiffness, pain, limited range of movement, redness and swelling, and an inability to bend or move the knee.
If these don’t start to reduce, then you should consult a medical professional, especially if you’ve been walking or running on it in the recovery period.
How Long Does A Meniscus Tear Take To Heal?
Of course, it depends on how severe and on what kind of tear you have. If it’s treated without surgery, it can take up to six or eight weeks. If surgery is required, it might be longer.
Straight Line Running Vs Twisting And Turning
Activities where you have to run in a straight line affect the body and, most importantly, the meniscus, in different ways.
Generally speaking, straight line running is easier on the meniscus than sports that involve twisting or turning (remember that twisting and turning is usually how the meniscus gets damaged in the first place).
For that reason, you might find that you’re able to return to straight line running activities sooner than other forms of exercise.
If you want to go back to playing basketball or soccer, for example, you’ll probably need to wait longer.
If you want to get back into running after tearing a meniscus, there are a few things you’ll need to consider first.
The most obvious thing is whether you can actually run without causing yourself any harm, which depends largely on how bad the tear was.
If it wasn’t too severe, then you might be able to just keep going. However, if it was very severe, then it’s best to take things easy for a while.